What is Mindfulness?
Very simply, mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment. Generally, we are not very good at doing this because we are usually distracted by other things and not focused on what is going on around us right now. For example, when was the last time you actually paid attention to the feeling of sunshine on your face, the scents around you, or the noises you are hearing? You probably have not paid too much attention to these things because you are likely distracted by your cell phone, thinking about what to make for dinner or what time to pick up the kids.
If you are not historically good at doing this, not to worry, it is called "practicing" mindfulness for a reason. We often need to really pay attention to what we are doing in order to be mindful and that takes work!
Here are some good things to keep in mind when you are practicing mindfulness:
- Live with awareness in the present moment
- Be in the present moment non-judgmentally; try not to judge or reject the moment
- Be in the present moment without clinging to the past or focusing on the future
One of the hardest things about mindfulness is people often think they are not doing it "right" if they lose focus or become distracted by other thoughts rather than the present moment. However, that is the best part about mindfulness, there is no "right or wrong" the important thing is that you are able to bring yourself back to the present moment when you find yourself losing focus.
There are many activities you can participate in that are widely known as mindfulness exercises - yoga and meditation are two examples; however, anything can become a mindfulness exercise if you pay attention to it mindfully and non-judgmentally!
How can I practice Mindfulness?
- Notice your body sensations using all five senses (eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue)
- Control your attention, push nothing away and hold on to nothing
- Notice your thoughts come into your mind, but let them slip right by like watching leaves float by on a stream
- Put words on the experience, such as "my chest is tightening"
- Put a label on what you observe; a feeling is a feeling just as a thought is just a thought
- Separate your interpretations and opinions from the facts; practice mindfulness non-judgmentally
- Completely experience the activities of the current moment, even if it's a mundane task such as washing the dishes, be completely present in that task
- Go with the flow
- Do one thing at a time - when you're eating, eat; when you're worrying, worry; when you're walking, walk
- Let go of distractions
- Acknowledge the difference between helpful and harmful thoughts and feelings, but do not judge them
- Be mindful of your goals in the situation - why are you doing this anyway?
- Focus on what works for you
Linehan, M.M (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guildford Press.